Friday, April 12, 2024

MSU Black Book Initiative promotes Black belonging, community resources on campus

April 2, 2024
Photo by Abbey Ross | The State News

Michigan State University is home to clubs that span over a range of topics, cultures and backgrounds. From organizations that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, to clubs that just get together to host roundtable discussions, MSU includes a variety of organizations that can fit everyone's needs and wants.

The Black community at MSU makes up about 3,500 students collectively, or 6.92% of the overall student population, and 4.48% of undergraduate students, according to Data USA. Resources and network opportunities are less likely to be available and centered around this demographic of students due to the Black community being the minority on this campus. 

Black Book Initiative is an organization that works to promote diversity by specifically tailoring resources to Black students first. Their book, “The MSU Black Book," captures other Black groups and clubs on campus, Black professors, Black mental health resources and so much more. 

“I looked into race and ethnicity disparities here at MSU and created a hypothetical database to meet students where they are,” human development and family studies senior Taylor Hughes-Barrow said. “Creating something that had everything a student, more specifically a student of color would need. Joining such a huge campus, I had a hard time joining the opportunities I am in now because I just did not know how to find them.” 

MSU Black Book is a reflection of the historic book produced by Victor Green titled, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which was dedicated to providing as safe a lifestyle as possible for Black people during the Jim Crow era and segregation. Published and used during 1936-1967, the green book was a requirement to keep the Black community safe, an objective shared by MSU Black Book. Now in its 3rd edition, the book and club are special to Black students working on and utilizing it. 

“Being a part of the Black Book Initiative meant something special to me,” electrical engineering senior Serenity Hall said. “Coming from Detroit and being surrounded by a lot of Black people, then transitioning to being one of the only Black people in your classes, it can be really hard to find resources … I knew I wanted to help supply the resources to help incoming students.” 

For many Black students at MSU, their experiences often go overlooked; MSU Black Book Initiative serves to remedy this by promoting involvement and Black belonging on campus through Greek life, faith, professional development and Black-owned businesses.   

Social work senior Brianna McCray had a "hard time" navigating MSU when she first arrived on campus. Looking to spread a sense of community among Black students, she joined the Black Book Initiative.

“I wanted to work with underserved populations, so joining this group was the way to do that,” McCray said. “It helps us Black students get a sense of belonging seeing what is out there for us on campus. There's so many organizations on campus I had no idea about until I began researching for this group, and (I) learned so much more about them.” 

The initiative gets inspiration from its older editions to ensure new developments with every book. This, along with the inclusion of a map of campus, is part of efforts to help its readers integrate into MSU's communities.

The newest 3rd edition also holds stronger social ties with many of its sections' dedications to Black campus events, such as the B.L.A.C Empowerment Awards, hosted by MSU’s Black Student Alliance, and Miss Black & Gold Pageant, hosted by the Zeta Delta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Hall said the combination of academic and social lifestyles allows the book to truly be something the Black community can hold onto and use in different aspects of their time here at MSU.

“We added new sections that I thought were crucial to today's time and things students are fighting for or continuously talking about,” Hughes-Barrow said. “Sections like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and LGBTQ+ resources bring intersectionality to the students, especially since Black students face specific and different problems than the majority at MSU.”

When being tasked with a huge responsibility, Hall said, it can become challenging to figure out which groups and people are added to the book. But the sole purpose is to provide benefit to the Black students at MSU, so the people and groups that are added reflect that purpose, she said.

Unity, collaboration and mutual respect is what these members want the Black community at MSU to achieve, and they believe they are helping the university reach that goal one Black Book at a time. 

“I would like to see this organization become more public in the future, something the campus itself can collaborate on and enforce as a campus wide necessity because DEI is an important thing here,” McCray said. “Everyone in the club uses their strengths to make the book better, we’re so diverse in our assets and The Black Book is a complete reflection of that, a reflection of the diverse community that is the Black community.” 

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